Breeding Ducks and Geese

Ducks and geese intended for breeding should have a wing or leg band applied
so you can identify them when you breed them. Banding should be done soon
after hatching, and each band used on one animal should have identical numbers.
Records should be kept regarding the parents of each duck, how many eggs each
duck or goose lays, if she is broody and for how long, and how many eggs are
hatched for each female. Poorly performing ducks and geese can be identified by
their band and culled.

The tail features of ducks descended from Mallards, which is about every bird,
will help you determine the sex. Drakes will have a few curled feather tips at the
end of their tails while females’ tails will lie flat. Geese are not so easily
identified as adults. They should be purchased as sexed and banded as soon as
possible so you can tell gander from goose. For those breeds that cannot be
sexed on physical characteristics (for example, Pilgrims by feather color, Emden
by down color, and Chinese by beak knob), vent sexing will need to be done.

This is performed when the ducklings or goslings are a couple of days old.
The bird is held with the vent facing the person performing the sexing. The right
thumb and first finger are placed on either side of the vent and pressed firmly
over the vent. The vent is then parted slowly to expose the inner lining. The left
thumb is used to gently pull back on the skin surrounding the vent. This will
expose a pink colored cloaca and the penis (a small protuberance) in the male
will be visible. The females have a genital eminence, or small fold of tissue.
Adults are sexed in a similar manner but will struggle when caught.

Only those ducks and geese in good physical shape should be kept for breeding.
Legs should be straight and free of deformities, as should the beak and wings.
They should comply with breed standards for coloring, body shape, and weight.
A drake can breed five to eight females. For geese, only one gander should be
used for one or two females. Ducks can be bred during the first year; geese
should be 1 year old when they breed. Geese prefer to mate on water, and the
water should be deep enough for the geese to swim in.

Most duck eggs take 28 days to hatch, with the exception of Muscovy duck eggs,
which take 35 days. If the female incubates her own eggs, make sure she has
water and feed available near the nest. Pekin and Indian Runner ducks do not
make good egg sitters, so you may need to have a foster mother incubate the
eggs. Duck eggs can be brooded by broody chicken hens, but the eggs will need
to be sprinkled with water every day to keep them slightly moist. If you plan to
artificially incubate the eggs, the process is similar to chickens except for
differences in humidity and temperature. Incubation requires 99.5 degrees F and
55 to 75 percent humidity. The eggs need to be turned at least twice daily but
preferably four times a day. At day 25, the temperature should be lowered and
the humidity slightly increased. Once the ducklings are hatched, allow them to
dry in the incubator for one hour. Then, they can be moved to their prepared
brooding pen.

Geese eggs take 30 days to hatch. Temperature in a forced-air incubator should
be 100 degrees F, while in a still-air incubator, the temperature should be
maintained at 103 degrees F. The humidity should be 50 to 55 percent for the
first 27 days of incubation. Eggs should be turned 180 degrees, four to six times
each day. The final three days before hatching, increase the humidity to 75

When the goslings hatch, the doors to the incubator should be opened to
allow the humidity to escape; this allows the goslings’ down to dry. After an
hour, they should be dry and can be moved to the brooding pen.
Nest boxes for geese should be a minimum of 2 square feet. Larger breeds may
require more space. You can build your own boxes out of wood or purchase
them from a poultry supply company, though it might be difficult to find a
wooden box large enough for geese. If the female incubates her own eggs, make
sure she has water and feed available near the nest. A female should not leave
her eggs unattended more than once a day. Most females can successfully hatch
up to a dozen eggs.

If you plan to incubate the eggs, collect them at least twice daily, but be sure to
use caution. During breeding season, the geese can become ornery. You most
likely will be hissed at as you collect eggs. To prevent being injured by
protective mothers, situate nest boxes near an aisle in the pen, wear gloves, and
protect your eyes with safety glasses. You can also create a distraction by
feeding the birds as you collect their eggs.

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